Irish exports up 7% last year to hit record level of €22.7bn
Export results from Enterprise Ireland highlight efforts to reduce Brexit exposure
The UK remains the Republic’s largest export market, with more than a third of products bound for Britain. Photograph: Stringer/Reuters
Steady progress was made in diversifying the State’s export market in 2017 as a record €22.71 billion worth of products were exported, according to figures published on Thursday by Enterprise Ireland.
The agency, which is responsible for helping Irish companies access export markets, said export sales were up 7 per cent on 2016.
It was the highest level of exports recorded in the history of the agency, which was founded in 1998, and the eighth consecutive year of growth. Enterprise Ireland clients achieved total sales of €44.4 billion, up 8 per cent on 2016.
The UK remains the Republic’s largest export market, with 34 per cent of products heading there. There was growth of 4 per cent in the value of UK exports, to €7.62 billion, but efforts are under way to reduce our exposure to the market ahead of Brexit.
Exports to the euro zone, which account for 20 per cent of the total, saw strong growth of 9 per cent to €4.61 billion. Almost 90 Irish companies exported to the euro zone for the first time.
Elsewhere, exports to the United States and Canada, which represent 17 per cent of the Republic’s overseas market, increased 7 per cent to €3.96 billion. Exports to northern, central and eastern Europe, and the Asia Pacific region, all saw growth of 9 per cent.
The food industry remains by far the largest sector for exports, growing 10 per cent to €11.52 billion. The next largest sector, which covers life sciences, engineering, paper print and packaging, electronics and cleantech, was up 7 per cent to €4.02 billion.
On Brexit, Enterprise Ireland chief executive Julie Sinnamon said the growth in the UK market was achieved “despite the prevailing challenges, including volatility and uncertainty”.
“We are working closely with UK-dependent clients to help them to trade through the unpredictability and to protect hard-won market share in the UK,” she said. “Clients are taking the necessary actions to offset the impact and manage the risks posed by Brexit.
“At the same time, we are progressing with our strategic ambition to expand the Irish export footprint in diversified global markets, reducing overall UK market exposure ... by 2020.”
Ms Sinnamon said Enterprise Ireland was targeting export sales of €26 billion per annum by 2020. “Irish companies are achieving international global sales at record levels, following consistent year-on-year growth for the past eight consecutive years,” she said.